WHAT'S NEW . . .
I am very proud that three schools in Senate District 16 were among 115 Texas high schools awarded the 2009 College Readiness Award. This award, given to St. Mark's School of Texas, Episcopal School of Dallas, and Woodrow Wilson High School, signifies that these schools have significantly increased their ACT composite scores over five years, as well as increased the number of students taking the ACT assessment. Congratulations!
We're also proud of Craig McKinney, SD 16 resident and teacher at Plano's Shepton High School, who received the Jane Johnson Wilson Award for Outstanding Teaching. This award was presented by the Texas Exes and the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin.
The C.C. Young Retirement Community is presenting the third event in their Mind, Body & Spirit Lecture Series. Dr. Steve Murdock, Ph.D, will discuss The New Texas Challenge: Population Change and the Future of Texas. Dr. Murdock, a professor at Rice University, was the state's first official demographer and headed the Texas State Data Center for over 25 years. The lecture will be given on February 17, 2010, 7:00 p.m. at SMU's James M. Collins Executive Education Center, 3150 Binkley Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75205. This event is complimentary and open to the public, but seating is limited. Please R.S.V.P. to 214-841-2834 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to attend. Valet parking will also be complimentary.
On January 15th, a letter signed by Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Strauss was sent to the leaders of all state agencies, including the courts and institutions of higher education, requesting that each agency submit a plan to identify savings of 5 percent in their appropriations for the 2010-11 biennium. Plans are to be submitted to the Legislative Budget Board and the Office of the Governor's Budget, Planning and Policy division no later than February 15, 2010. Stressing "prudent, efficient reductions that minimize the impact on direct services," the request comes in response to concerns expressed by the Comptroller regarding the state's short-term economic future as a result of the national recession. "Texas has a balanced budget and comparatively sound economic conditions. However, we owe it to the taxpayers to be especially prudent with their hard-earned dollars during these difficult times."
A number of new laws went into effect on January 1, 2010. The Legislative Reference Library provides a list of bills by effective dates that were passed during the most recent 81st Session of the Texas Legislature. Some of the new laws effective January 1, 2010 include:
- Texans between the ages of 16 ½ and 18 years of age must have guardian consent in order to use tanning beds.
- New or transfer college students must provide proof that they have been vaccinated against bacterial meningitis at least 10 days before moving into an on-campus residence.
- All cigarettes sold in Texas must be "fire safe" or be the type that self-extinguish.
- Appraisal districts must consider properties that have been foreclosed on when determining a home's value.
- An expedited process must be provided for property owners to protest Appraisal Review Board determinations.
The deadline for candidates to file to run in the March primary elections was January 4, 2010. The website for the Secretary of the State offers links to view candidates who have declared their intent to run, sorted by party. Primary elections will be held on March 2, 2010. February 1, 2010, is the last day to register to vote and be eligible to cast a ballot in the March primaries. Early voting runs Tuesday, February 16th through Friday, February 26th. Visit the Dallas County Elections Department for information on registering to vote, polling locations, times and sample ballots.
Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst released his Senate Interim Charges on January 13th. Speaker Joe Straus released Interim Charges for the Texas House last November.
Now that all of the interim charges have been released, the various committees are starting to schedule hearings. You can visit The Texas Legislature Online to see meeting schedules or to view live broadcasts of the meetings held in the Capitol. Look for "Legislative Activity" on the right side of the homepage and click on House or Senate Video Broadcasts. The following legislative committees are currently scheduled to meet:
- House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence
Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.
Capitol Extension, E2.010
- House Committee on Corrections
Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.
Capitol Extension, E2.010
- Joint meeting of the House Committee on Transportation and Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee
Monday, February 1, 2010 at 8:00 a.m.
Capitol Extension Auditorium, E1.004
- House Public Education Committee
Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.
Capitol Extension, E2.036
- House Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding
Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 1:00 p.m.
Capitol Extension, E1.014
- Senate Health & Human Services Committee
Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.
- Senate Health & Human Services Committee
Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.
FOCUS . . .
Every 10 years, the United States conducts a nationwide census in order to count every person living in the United States. In March 2010, each residence in the United States and Puerto Rico will receive a census form. This form requires the respondent to account for everyone living at that residence as of April 1, 2010, and asks for responses to nine additional questions. For convenience, the census form will include a prepaid envelope for return mail. If a residence does not return the form, a census taker will follow up with the residents of the non-responding address in person.
It is vital that all Texans participate in this once-a-decade process. Each year, around 400 billion federal dollars are allocated to states for various purposes, and often the allocations depend on the population of the state. Therefore, having an accurate count of our population ensures that Texas gets its fair share of these funds for infrastructure and services such as schools, roads and hospitals. Having the census numbers also helps communities plan for the future by providing a way to analyze local trends. For example, we can see where the population is shifting to help us understand the current and future transportation needs in North Texas.
The results of the census also affect our representation in federal and state government. Both the United States Constitution and the Texas Constitution require that every person's vote be as meaningful as every other person's vote, often referred to as the "one person, one vote" requirement. To achieve this goal, the law requires that the number of Congressional districts apportioned to each state must reflect the population of the state as compared to the population of other states. Texas currently has 32 Congressional districts. However, states such as Texas that have experienced a significant population increase since the 2000 Census was taken are likely to be apportioned a greater number of representatives in Congress after the 2010 Census, and those with reduced populations are likely to see their number of representatives reduced. With Texas being one of the fastest growing states in the United States, it has been estimated that the number of Texas Congressional districts may increase by as many as three to four districts. This is why an accurate census count is very important to Texas; we want to ensure that Texas is fairly represented in Congress.
In addition to the number of Congressional districts each state is apportioned, the one person, one vote requirement means that every voting district must contain the same number of people as every other similar voting district. For example, all Congressional districts in Texas must have equal, or nearly equal, populations. Since population is assessed every 10 years through the census, states review the populations of voting districts after the census is taken and reapportion voting district populations as necessary to maintain an equal population count. This process is referred to as "redistricting" and involves changing the geographical boundaries of voting districts to equalize their populations where the census has indicated an increase, decrease or shift in population in the districts.
Under the Texas Constitution, the Texas Legislature has primary responsibility for making the necessary changes to voting district boundaries for federal, state and local voting districts. Following the collection of data from the 2010 Census, the Texas Legislature will begin the process of redistricting during the 2011 legislative session. The redistricting process is likely to be one of the most significant issues taken up by the Legislature during this next legislative session.
The Texas Legislative Council has also released a more in-depth publication called State and Federal Law Governing Redistricting in Texas. Additionally, the Better Business Bureau has published an article (http://www.bbb.org/us/article/bbb-alerts-consumers-about-us-census-workers-be-cooperative-but-cautious-10306) to help respondents avoid any scams associated with the 2010 Census.
STUDENT OPPORTUNITIES . . .
In 2009, the Texas Legislature approved House Bill 3452, authorizing the Texas Armed Services Scholarship Program, which encourages students to participate in the armed services. In order to be eligible for this program, a student must meet certain requirements, as well as enter into an agreement requiring a four-year commitment as a member of the Texas Army National Guard, a member of the Texas Air Force National Guard or a commissioned officer in any branch of the armed services of the United States. Each year, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor will each appoint two students, and each state senator and state representative will have the opportunity to appoint one student to receive a conditional Texas Armed Services Scholarship.
Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry is accepting applications for its high school Summer Pre-dental Enrichment Program. This program is targeted toward high school students with an interest in dentistry, allowing them the opportunity for hands-on learning experiences, as well as interaction with students and faculty in the current dental program. The deadline to apply is February 12th for current 11th grade students, and May 14th for current 9th and 10th grade students.
All Texas students (public, private and home-schooled) in grades K-6 are invited to participate in the 14th Annual Treasures of the Texas Coast Children's Art Contest, sponsored by the General Land Office (GLO). All entries must incorporate the slogan, "Trashing Texas Beaches Isn't Cool." On the GLO website, you can find more information about contest rules, entry forms, FAQ's, and view previous years' winning entries. All entries must be postmarked by March 1, 2010.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
The Texas Historical Commission has released 19 new websites featuring historic properties from Texas' past. For each of these properties, which include Civil War battlegrounds and historic mansions, the websites offer educational information, event calendars and will soon include features such as video and podcasts. To explore these new sites, please go to www.texashistoricsites.com and select a property.
The Comptroller is still trying to reunite Texans with their unclaimed property. More than 30 Texas newspapers will publish the 2009 unclaimed property regional lists that include the names of people with $250 or more in unclaimed property reported last year. On Sunday, February 7th, our region will receive the list. You can check the Dallas Morning News insert then, or you can check for unclaimed property any time at www.ClaimItTexas.org.
IN CLOSING . . .
We've embarked on the beginning of a new decade. I hope your new year is marked as a good start, or at least a "fresh" start! Let's keep moving forward.
State Senator - District 16
|P.O. Box 12068|
Austin, TX 78711
|8080 N. Central Expy.
Suite 1440, LB 44
Dallas, TX 75206
|5401 N. Central Expy.
Dallas, TX 75205